You can't turn back time, but you can hold it at bay a bit - by staying fit, healthy and positive - and dealing with those issues that drag you down.
If you hate absolutely everything about ageing then it would take more than a nip and tuck and counselling to set you on an even course, so our rather less intensive suggestions won't do the trick. If, like most of us entering middle-age, you do so with as much acceptance as resignation, then read on.
I'm a firm believer in fixing what bothers you, although personally I'm too lazy to get unduly worried about much, mainly because I avoid looking long in the mirror. Botox and fillers aren't for me, but I have friends who swear by them. As gravity takes its toll, the idea may have more oomph. For now I'd rather spend that sort of money on holidays and haircare.
Luckily I've never loved lolling about in the sun and my skin is much the better for it. Despite testing plenty of miracle creams, I'm convinced a good night's sleep, lucky genes and a good diet do as much for you, but moisturising and sound skincare do matter.
If your budget allows, my recommendation is don't let the likes of veins and stained teeth get you down. Deal to them. If you can't afford to fix flaws, don't fixate on them, but do try to disguise them. Employ good grooming as your best defence over dowdiness. Looking like you don't care, whatever you look like, is the biggest turnoff, whereas a confident and well-turned out woman will always age well.
Here are a few ways to help:
SMILE SOLUTION #1
Braces are the bane of teenaged wearers' lives and though a number of adults who slipped the cage when they were younger do sign on for belated corrective therapy it's not a good look. But neither are crooked teeth, explaining why Invisalign appeals.
Invisalign makes dental aligners, an alternative to wired-in braces, which can deliver similar results in all but the most troublesome jaws and at comparable prices. As with braces you're signing up for a long-term commitment, wearing them for a year or more. Unlike braces they are removable for eating and tooth cleaning and there's no metal or wires to rub away in the mouth or on tooth enamel.
Like a form-fitted mouthguard, the near invisible, clear aligner plate fits over teeth, gradually moving them into their desired position. A series of aligners is custom-designed for each patient, using 3D computer imaging technology which maps the teeth from their current position to their desired position. The medical-grade plastic aligners step out the adjustments, with the patient switching to a new one every two weeks and going back to their dental professional for progress checks every couple of months. So far more than 1.5 million people, both older teens and adults, have been treated with Invisalign overseas, for issues including alignment, teeth crowding, gaps and underbites. The company says its aligners offer a greener approach to fixing teeth than resorting to veneers which can merely mask problems. The method originated in the States in 1997 and was launched in Australia 10 years ago, where there are now more than 1000 orthodonists and dentists accredited to treat patients with it. In New Zealand the company has been slowly recruiting. Women in their 30s are the most common customer group, but an 81-year-old has signed up for it too.
* Invisalign costs vary, but an indicative full treatment price of around $8500 includes up to three refinements, allowing extra aligners to be provided if deemed necessary.
SMILE SOLUTION #2
The trout pout is one of those sure signs of addiction to appearance medicine. It is now a decidedly unfashionable look in any up-to-date clinic. Mick Jagger lips belong to another era and nowdays only those unfortunate women who chose permanent fillers - now also decidedly unfashionable - are likely to be going around looking like a blowfish.
Filler for the lips remains, however, a popular procedure, helping to restore shrinking contours and fill fine lines around the mouth where loss of muscle support over time takes its toll. The aim is for a natural, plumped look in which the upper lip is less full than the lower one. Treatments need to be adjusted to suit each individual by a skilled practitioner.
Restylane Lip Volume gives around six months volume enhancement and is a recent addition to the Restylane range, it can be used in conjunction with Restylane Lip Refresh, another new product, used primarily to rejuvenate rather than volumnise. Refresh helps restore hydro-balance in lips while subtly improving definition so is suitable as a standalone option for men or women. All Restylane products are hyaluronic acid-based, a naturally occurring substance which breaks down over time.
After lip injections of the gel a little bruising and swelling is normal, but this should subside quickly.
* Restylane lip treatments cost between $600 to $650 for 1ml of the Lip Volume and $550 to $600 for Lip Refresh.
GET IF OFF YOUR CHEST
The neck and chest, like the backs of hands, is a dead giveaway when it comes to ageing. Women spend a lot of money on their skin, but mostly they focus on the face. Remember to spread your skincare products - and sunscreen - below the jawline.
Any exfoliation, microdermabrasion or peels undertaken on the decollete should be done gently. For sun-damaged skin and lined cleavage, laser offers the best options for rejuvenation. Discolouration can be reduced, tone and texture improve and the collagen-stimulating effects of a decent laser will help skin bounce back a little.
If you're not willing to wear sunscreen religiously afterwards think twice about whether you'll be wasting your time and money.
As with all expensive laser treatment, seek a consultation or two on what treatment might realistically achieve and in how many sessions. Ask how experienced the operators are. If you sign up for anything, have a clear idea of likely costs.
I haven't tried laser on my decollete, but I have had it on the back of my hands at Caci. It pinged a bit, but wasn't too bad. I reckon they still look better now, three years down the track, than they did before I got zapped. There was a clear reduction in brown spots after just one treatment, although the persistent ones did not disappear after two sessions, but the best thing was that the crone-like crevices evened out and my skin looked smoother and softer.
* Caci clinics offer a decolletage programme called Reformaskin which is a course of treatments over 48 weeks, including skincare products. (This strikes me as a big commitment especially if your main concern is shifting pigmentation, but it does spread payments.) Reformaskin offers two levels of action depending on the skin's condition. Restore focuses on sun damage using microdermabrasion and varied pulsed light, whereas Fractional CO2 Laser is aimed more at rejuvenation.
Caci says results should be seen after 12 weeks. A free consultation is available.